The slow-motion collapse of the Skyline Healthcare chain of nursing homes continued this week as the troubled operator surrendered its licenses for five buildings in Massachusetts — while another building that had been placed in receivership in Nebraska is set to shut its doors in May.
After local news agencies reported that the provider had been bouncing paychecks to employees at the five properties in the southeastern part of the Bay State, Skyline on Wednesday agreed to relinquish its licenses to operate the buildings, the Providence, R.I. NBC affiliate WJAR reported.
“Skyline Healthcare will voluntarily surrender the licenses for each of their five Massachusetts nursing homes,” a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Public Health told WJAR. “The Department of Public Health is working with the licensee on an orderly closure process for these facilities.”
Skyline owner Joseph Schwartz had 100% ownership in four out of the five buildings, with an unspecified partial stake in the fifth.
At Bedford Gardens Care & Rehabilitation Center in New Bedford, Mass., ownership had delivered paychecks late for two weeks, with the most recent set bouncing, local newspaper The Standard-Times reported. In response, many nurse’s aides stopped showing up to work, with executive director Steven Haase forced to close the third floor out of safety concerns.
Haase also instructed residents and their families to start searching for alternate nursing care options, according to WJAR.
“I have to do what’s best for my patients,” Haase told WJAR. “If I can’t get adequate staff in here to take care of them, then I need to do the right thing and let the patients know they should look elsewhere where they can get better care.”
The other affected buildings were Bedford Village Care & Rehabilitation Center and Rockdale Care & Rehabilitation Center, both in New Bedford; Dighton Care & Rehabilitation Center in Dighton; and Highland Manor Care & Rehabilitation Center in Fall River.
The upheaval along Massachusetts’s South Coast only compounds long-term care issues in the state, which has seen 20 nursing homes close due to insufficient Medicaid funding over the last year — with more expected to shut down if the state can’t reach an agreement to boost its daily Medicaid rates, which haven’t been substantially updated since 2007.
Meanwhile, in the nation’s midsection, another former Skyline property in Nebraska will soon shut its doors, according to a Wednesday report from the Associated Press.
The Broken Bow Care & Rehabilitation Center in Broken Bow, Neb. is set to close next month after spending a year under the control of a third-party receiver, the AP reported. The facility was one of 21 that the state put in the hands of Klaasmeyer and Associates back in March 2018 after its owners, Skyline affiliate Cottonwood Healthcare, failed to make payroll.
Klaasmeyer back in January asked for permission to close four additional properties in Nebraska, citing low census and persistent physical plant issues — including “uncontrollable water temperatures and potential asbestos contamination,” according to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star.
Skyline’s unexpected rise from an unknown player to a multi-state chain of more than 100 properties came to an equally abrupt end last year, as the troubled operator ran into problems paying vendors and employees in Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.
Overseen by Schwartz and related investors from a small office above a New Jersey pizzeria, Skyline’s spectacular flame-out has raised concerns about state-level vetting processes for approving new nursing home licenses. In Pennsylvania, for instance, officials seemed to rely on self-reported information when giving the green light to Skyline — despite a previous lawsuit against Schwartz in Florida over improper payroll tactics.
Skyline’s turmoil also prompted the state of Kansas to pass a new law — with near-universal and bipartisan support — that will require all prospective nursing home owners to submit detailed financial information and disclose all properties they currently own or have ever owned in the United States.
Skyline had reportedly owed millions of dollars to vendors when Kansas officials approved its licenses back in 2016.